Arrest of cannabis 'delivery man' points to emergence of illegal online sales: police

The 43-year-old is facing cannabis-related charges. Investigators seized phones, cash and pot.

Several paper bags with buyer's details attached were found in a Jeep

A 43-year-old Hamilton facing cannabis-related charges following a police traffic stop around 10 p.m. Wednesday. (John Einarson/CBC)

When Hamilton police pulled over a white Jeep Wednesday they expected to find a suspected suspended driver. Instead they uncovered what they believe is a cannabis "delivery man" and his illegal dispensary on wheels.

An officer spotted a plastic bin containing pot on the passenger seat. And police say they found several paper bags with various amounts of cannabis, with the buyer details attached and a GPS showing the man was headed to an address nearby.

It's the first hard evidence local investigators have found of illegal pot deliveries in Hamilton, according to Const. Jerome Stewart — and of a potential new chapter in the story of cannabis sales in "Hamsterdam," a city once known for the prevalence of its pot outlets.

Police announced back in June that they'd shut down all of the city's illegal stores following months of raids, lockups and even a comment from Premier Doug Ford that outlaw dispensaries in Hamilton were his "biggest frustration" about legalization in Ontario.

But simply shuttering all the physical storefronts wasn't enough to stop illegal cannabis sales, which just went digital.

"It is very apparent that there are quite a few same-day delivery services for cannabis," said Stewart, adding several of the dispensaries police have already shut down are still offering sales online.

"They've obviously gone to another level now. With not having brick-and-mortar stores, their services are coming through another way."

A member of the provincial enforcement team set up to target illegal cannabis takes photos outside HaZe dispensary on King Street East after it was shut down in January. (Dan Taekema/CBC News)

Stewart was quick to point out that there's no evidence at this point that the man who was arrested was linked to any dispensary. But police seized two cell phones from him and say they're continuing to investigate.

He would not comment on whether or not the customers whose information was seized along with the weed could also face repercussions.

Police were aware of some dispensaries offering delivery services as they continued to get shutdown, but Stewart said enforcement falls under the province's joint cannabis task force. Wednesday's arrest marked the first time Hamilton police have seen what appears to be a delivery man in action.

"Because this is the first time we've come across it we had no concrete evidence to support that this delivery service has occurred," he explained. "We were aware of this in the past, we now have our first incident."

A 'higher level' of sophistication

The officer who stopped the Jeep near the corner of Roxborough Avenue and Barons Avenue North around 10 p.m. wasn't looking for cannabis. Stewart explained the vehicle was halted to investigate a possible suspended driver when the officer noticed the smell of pot and found the drugs.

After searching the vehicle, officers seized the following items:

  • 247 grams of cannabis.
  • An undisclosed amount of Canadian cash.
  • Two cell phones.

"[This is] obviously a little more elaborate than a person we'd consider to be a low-level dealer," said Stewart. "Definitely the level of sophistication is higher."

A 43-year-old Hamilton man is charged with possessing cannabis for the purpose of selling, possession of the proceeds of a crime under $5,000 and driving while under suspension.

The man is scheduled to appear in court in mid-September.